With the enemies of the Earthlight continuing to grow in both numbers and power, Peter's final quest becomes more difficult and confusing. He discovers the dreadful truth only when it is too late and, in his mind-numbing horror, he seems to be about to lose the final battle.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Laraine's web site can be found at http://lbarker.orcon.net.nz.
The Third Age Begins
PETER SNUGGLED deeper into the duvet. His new home, with two acres of land, was just what he always wanted. It was so good to have all that room to exercise Dreyfus. Even better, perhaps, he was living near his Aunt Angela and Uncle Paul and would be going to the same college as Jamie and John.
The darkness was faintly grayed by moonlight streaming through the gaps in the curtains. The moon was riding fairly high—that means it must be near the full, he thought briefly—and a moonbeam ran straight from the window to his bedside table, creating an area almost as bright as day. It lit something sitting there—a thing whose polished surface gleamed like black glass. Even by just looking at it, Peter could feel the power contained within the Obsidian Orb.
He felt no guilt about leaving the Obsidian Orb, that most potent of the Tokens of Power made for the Earthlight, apparently exposed to the gaze of anyone entering his room, for he had placed a spell of forbidding and protection around it. The spell would come into force, making the orb invisible, the instant someone opened his door or so much as knocked upon it. It was even forged to detect the approach of the Evil One or any of his Lords of Corruption.
As Peter's thoughts returned to the Earthlight's last battle against the forces of darkness, a face floated into his mind's eye—a handsome face with dark olive skin and flashing black eyes—the face of Sujad Cariotis, formerly Lord of Obsidian and one-time Master of the Obsidian Orb. Even Sujad, Peter mused, wouldn't have been able to see or even sense the presence of the thing he coveted so much, the thing for which he unwittingly sacrificed his life.
Peter relived in memory the last scene he witnessed before falling into pain-filled darkness, when the Evil One hurled the Obsidian Dagger at Merlin the Enchanter, whom Peter first knew as Uncle Paul, and Peter instinctively threw himself into the weapon's path. The dagger, however, instantly changed direction and hit the Lord of Obsidian in the chest. Reliving the experience made Peter's blood run cold.
Even though Sujad is dead, I still have to be careful, he thought. There are three other Lords of Corruption to deal with.
He looked again at the Obsidian Orb and it started glowing. It turned pale yellow like a round lamp—or was it the moon he was looking at? He blinked, and the light started pulsing. But the orb doesn't do that. It's the Essence of Obsidian that's like a ball of light pulsing in at me.
As soon as he thought about the Spirit of Obsidian, the Obsidian Orb stopped pulsing and expanded, spreading itself over the bed until its curve stretched right over him. Then it seemed to overbalance towards the bed. It was almost as though the moon was falling on him. He found himself being swallowed up in the density of its pale light. Before he could thrash out in protest, he heard and saw the throbbing sensation that told of the presence of the Essence of Obsidian. Almost palpable, it pulsed right through his body. He hadn't heard from the Power of Obsidian for so long and sorely missed his unusual friend. Its return could mean only one thing…
Heart thumping painfully, he waited for the Spirit of Obsidian to speak. When it did, its words astonished him. "Are you there, Peter?" The voice in his mind was still the deep, slow, booming one he remembered, but it sounded agitated.
Peter's heart jumped in alarm. "Yes. Is something wrong?" he asked sharply in mind-speech.
A big sigh reverberated in his head. "Thank goodness! I've been trying to get you for ages."
Peter's alarm deepened. "Ages? What's ages?"
"Several days. I can't get through to you without the Obsidian Orb being within your sight and reach."
Guilt swamped Peter, for the Obsidian Orb had been one of the first things he packed in Wellington. "Oh? How come?"
"Because the Book of Obsidian is locked in a box made of obsidian and only Sujad can open it."
Apprehension sent Peter's heart thumping. "But Sujad's dead!"
"Yes," the deep voice boomed. "But as things stand only he can open the box. I need your help to change that. The Earthlight will need all the help it can get and I can't be of much help if I can only assist when you have the Obsidian Orb with you and in your sight."
"Yes, I see. I can take it with me to college only if I keep it invisible to everyone, including myself. But it can't be used even by me when it's under a spell of invisibility. I have to release it from the spell before I can do anything with it."
"It can be used while invisible if the Book of Obsidian is also in your possession. If you take them both to college I'll have no trouble communicating with you even though you can't see either the book or the orb."
"How can we get the book back then?"
"Will you come with me to Sujad's castle?"
"Of course! How can you doubt it? You don't have to ask, you know. Just take me there."
"You're my master now. You command and I obey—not the other way round." The deep voice spoke with a humility Peter hadn't heard in it before.
"Oh!" was all he could say. He thought about it for a moment. It felt most peculiar to think of the Power of Obsidian, whose friendship always filled him with awe, as his servant. The relationship up to now had been something akin to having the headmaster regard him as a valued friend, only more so.
He reached into his mind for the necessary spell. Briefly all the stars in the universe whirled around him, and the right one gave him the spell he needed. Having captured it, he climbed out of bed and stood in front of the Obsidian Orb. He placed his hands over it and closed his eyes, whispering the words aloud. Jagged lightning pulsed between his palms and the orb. He felt and heard the throbbing of the Essence of Obsidian, and it was the strongest it had ever been. Power seemed to course through him. It was, he supposed, something like being connected to a 240-volt power socket without being electrocuted.
Was this how it was with Sujad? A small stab of jealousy touched him that someone so vile once exercised so much power, had been able to command something as mighty as the Spirit of Obsidian.
And now it's my turn! Exultation surged through him to replace awe. Hey! I've felt like this before! Where… ? A jolt went through him as he remembered where and when. It had been in his bedroom at Bart's farmhouse when the former Lord of Obsidian made a determined—and almost successful—attempt to take over Peter. I can see how easy it might be for power to go to someone's head, he told himself uneasily. I must be careful.
"At least you're aware of it, Chosen One," the Essence of Obsidian said dryly. "Don't worry. You'll be all right."
Peter was unable to answer, for his surroundings started spinning until they became like a black vortex. Something was sucking him along—whether up or down he couldn't tell. It was, he thought fleetingly, like being flushed down the drainpipe with the bath water.
It was icy cold. He started wishing he'd put his dressing gown on over his pajamas and something warm on his feet. No sooner did regret for the omission form itself in his mind than he felt something wrap itself around him. It was soft and felt warm and fluffy. Something equally warm and soft slipped over his feet.
"Thank you!" he breathed in wonder as he realized the Power of Obsidian had conjured up a fur-lined cloak and warm boots for him.
At the same time the spinning stopped and he felt solid ground under his feet. However, it was still pitch black, almost as though he had woken up to find himself blind. Just as he was wondering why he forgot to bring his torch, he felt something thrust against his hand and at the same time the Power of Obsidian said, "Here, take this." His fingers closed around it, and he saw he was holding a rod from the top of which flared a dim, smokeless light.
"Salix babylonica!" he whispered aloud, and the echoes whispered the words back to him.
"It's a wizard's staff," the Power of Obsidian said into his mind. "I've borrowed it for you. Make sure you keep it burning."
"It's not a very good light. I can barely see my nose in front of my face." He peered around, but was still unable to make out where he was. "Is it a cave?"
"This is the castle Sujad created from obsidian—or, to be more correct, that I created for him. We're in what used to be the cellars and dungeons, but a different part from where he imprisoned you. These walls aren't depleted of all their power because they are farthest from where you and I performed the draining spell."
"Did he keep the Book of Obsidian in his cellar then?"
"In one particular part of it."
Peter held the light high and moved forward. This time he wasn't enclosed in what he once thought of as a crystal ball, but moved through the darkness with nothing between him and the outside world. This time he felt himself in command, instead of in the keeping of the Power of Obsidian.
"Which way?" The still unseen walls whispered the words back to him.
Something solid loomed out of the darkness. It was only because it was darker than its surroundings and had a highly polished surface that it was visible. It looked like a huge black box, or a small black building, depending on the perspective of the one looking at it. There was an arched door set in it. The whole structure emitted strong waves of power. Only when Peter tried to approach did he realize the power was a spell of forbidding.
"What is it?" This time he spoke in mind-speech to avoid the echoes.
"It looks like a burial crypt," the Essence of Obsidian replied with studied indifference. "Perhaps Sujad intended it for himself."
"But you must have made it. You said you built Sujad's castle for him." Peter's tone was unwittingly accusatory.
"Sujad didn't get me to build anything like that," the Power of Obsidian said, somewhat abruptly. Subconsciously Peter noted the Spirit of Obsidian's choice of words, but thought no more about it.
They bypassed the vault, with Peter giving it a long hard stare as they went. It was then he saw the writing. Something was inscribed across the back wall, filling out the entire space.
"Wait! I want to read it."
The inscription was so large Peter was able to make it out from a fair distance. It didn't occur to him to wonder why he was able to read it in such poor light. The words seemed to give off their own light. In a soft whisper, which echoed in strange sibilants around him, he read: